A little more than a year after John Bothwell’s death in 1929, the John H. Bothwell Memorial Hospital opened on Oct. 29, 1930. Thirteen patients were transferred to the hospital, and three operations were performed that day. The building was three stories high, but only the first and second floors were initially used, although two operating rooms on the third floor were used from the beginning. There were 65 beds, eight children’s beds and 12 bassinets. Miss Margaret Collins, RN, was hospital superintendent, and her staff included eight nurses.
After its first year treating 849 patients and a positive cash balance of $835, the hospital entered its second year as Sedalia plunged into the darkest months of the depression. After a downward spiral in patient census, the second floor was closed. Cost-saving measures such as hiring nurse helpers and reducing maternity rates were implemented. The best news of the decade came in late 1939 when the hospital was placed on the approved list of the Hospitalization Standardization Conference having met all major requirements of the American College of Surgeons.
With an average of just 50 patients per month, the effects of the depression continued into the 1940s. In 1941, the nation went to war, and hospital personnel did their part for their country. After World War II ended, improvements were made to the hospital. In 1946 the existing third floor became the maternity ward, and the X-ray department and laboratory also moved there.
Also that year, Pettis County reported its first case of polio, and Bothwell met the medical challenge head-on. The latest model Iron Lung was procured through the May Hawkins Ilgenfritz fund. In 1947, a combination radiographic and fluoroscopic X-ray unit was delivered, and a significant service in the form of the Cancer Clinic was added. Six months after it opened, the clinic had outgrown its facility. Total hospital capacity was 80 beds and 21 bassinets.
In this decade, Bothwell experienced major social, economic, professional, and technological changes, including the availability of hospitalization insurance that made the hospital more accessible to the public. By 1955, the hospital was 25 years old and had become overcrowded and in drastic need of expansion. In 1959, the three-story north wing annex was completed, which made it possible to serve 120 patients at the same time. This year also marked the beginning of routine admission of African Americans and the granting of hospital privileges to doctors of osteopathy.
The 1960s ushered in challenges including a nursing shortage and a new billing system due to the arrival of Medicare. In 1963, the third floor of the north wing annex was finally completed, increasing bed capacity by 18, and the first Intensive Care Unit opened in 1965. The first issue of the Bothwell Hospital Employees News debuted in March 1965. Many issues later, the newsletter continues as the Bothwell Billboard. In 1968, the second part of the three-story far north wing was completed. It was funded by a shrewdly invested donation from Marion S. West, who left money in her will for a hospital chapel. The chapel was created on the first floor of the new addition.
Mirroring what was happening in the country, the 1970s at Bothwell was a season of slow growth and discontent. The lingering nursing shortage caused a temporary shutdown of the Intensive Care Unit in 1973. In 1974, a two-story northwest wing was added bringing the total number of hospital beds to 188. An annex was built in 1978 to house nuclear medicine, cobalt treatment and business departments. Bothwell teamed up with State Fair Community College, which opened in 1968, to conduct health occupations courses for local high school students.
Bothwell celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1980 and kicked off the decade with a new master plan. The far-reaching and extensive proposal included a new wing to replace obstetric services and an addition to and renovation of the original 1930 hospital building. The 75,000 square foot, three-story addition, named the Ray R. Jiedel Wing, opened in 1985 and was made possible by an $8 million revenue bond passed by Sedalia voters. The wing was named for Jiedel who was a former treasurer for the Bothwell Board of Trustees and the hospital’s principal planner and fundraiser for 20 years. Recognizing the many changes and improvements that had taken place over the last 50 years, Bothwell Memorial Hospital changed its name to Bothwell Regional Health Center.
A $3.4 million remodeling and expansion project began in 1989 and created 38 private rooms on the third floor of the new wing. It also expanded outpatient surgical reception and added a second trauma room and additional space to the X-ray department.
In 1993, a new Critical Care Unit opened, which included state-of-the-art Radiology and Physical Therapy departments that showcased the latest advances in life-saving treatments and medications.
In the mid-1990s, a new strategic plan was developed with its sole purpose being to reevaluate the hospital’s mission. It read in part, “To provide for west central Missouri’s health and wellness needs …”. With that, Bothwell was ready to grow. Citing a strong commitment to meet the medical needs of Benton County residents, the hospital acquired the Cole Camp clinic in 1994 and the Osage Valley Medical Center in Warsaw in 1998.
Despite its growth regionally, Bothwell continued to strengthen its presence in Pettis County by implementing a new master plan in 1996. The first phase included a two-story, 49,000 square foot addition on the hospital’s southeast side. A three-story wing on the south adjoined that building and featured a new same-day surgery suite. Renovations allowed the hospital to reduce the number of inpatient beds from 185 to 150. The plan also included extensive renovations to the emergency room and the pathology department.
The renovation phase of the 1990s master plan was finished in spring 2001, and in early 2004, Bothwell took a major step toward becoming a comprehensive cancer center by hiring a physician to lead its cancer care team.
The Bothwell Diagnostic Center, a 10,000 square foot free-standing clinic on Sedalia’s west side, opened in 2005 to make lab and diagnostic services available in a non-hospital setting.
Citing focuses on cancer and heart health issues, recruiting new physicians and growing women’s health services, Bothwell embarked on a multi-phased initiative in 2009 to add more facilities to its physical footprint.
In 2011, the Canon Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Care, located on the east side of the hospital, opened. Named for benefactors Jeff and Cara Canon who donated $1 million toward construction of the two-story addition, the center features cancer services on the ground floor and cardiovascular services on the upper floor. The cancer floor was named the Susan O’Brien Fischer Cancer Center in memory of Susan Fischer, a Sedalia mother and fierce cancer care advocate, who lost her battle with cancer in 2008.
The Healing Arts Center also opened in 2011. The building adjoins the west side of the Diagnostic Center and serves as a medical office building for women’s health, family health and specialty practices.
Today, due to forward-thinking and visionary strategic planning, Bothwell is more than just a hospital. With the acquisition of several family health and specialty practices, it has truly become a regional health center offering a depth and breadth of services for thousands of people in the west-central Missouri region. Specialties include ear, nose and throat care, sleep and pain clinics, physical therapy, pulmonary services, and a convenient walk-in clinic for treating minor and acute illness with rapid attention.
While there has been significant change and growth over the years, the spirit of community support has never been lost in the fabric of Bothwell’s history. From early physicians funding gaps in construction projects to Sedalia voters supporting progress, and benevolent community members and a supportive network of volunteers, Bothwell has not only survived but thrived for the last 90 years.
John Homer Bothwell’s vision of a community hospital continues to live on today.
Sources: Bothwell Regional Health Center: A Lifetime of Caring, 1930-2005, by William B. Claycomb, Becky Carr Imhauser and Rose M. Nolen; Missouri State Parks; and Bothwell Marketing and Communications.
John Homer Bothwell’s vision of a community hospital continues to live on today.
Margaret Collins, RN
A. Helen Aal, RN
Dorothy Potter, RN
Marie Steck, RN
F. Howard Peck
L. Don Feeback
James T. Rank
Rose McMullin, RN (interim)
Lori Wightman, RN
2019 – present